Betrayal means to hurt an individual, group or country by going against its/his/her trust in you. One can betray another by harming him/her or by helping his/her enemy. In the text, betrayal can be seen in the Fat Prince, the Ironshirts, the Servants, the doctors, the Peasant woman, Natella, Jussup and Grusha.
The Fat Prince betrays his brother, the Governor, by plotting to have him arrested, assassinated and removed from power. When the Governor goes to church, he meets the Fat Prince who wishes him a happy Easter and pretends to be happy to see the governor’s baby – Michael. After the Fat Prince gets the Governor killed, he takes over power and sends the Ironshirts to look for Michael and kill him.
The Governor’s servants and doctors also betray him. As soon as the Governor is arrested and the war breaks out, they all run away. One of the servants tells Grusha to leave immediately, and not to save Michael. One of the doctors also says that he cannot stay a minute longer in that accursed house “…on that little brat’s account.” (p.21)
Betrayal is also evident among the Ironshirts. After the Governor’s palace is attacked, the guards whose work is to defend him refuse to do so. They refuse to obey and instead stare coldly and indifferently at the Adjutant who tries to give them orders. Only the Adjutant and a few Ironshirts remain loyal by protecting the Governor’s wife and escorting her to the capital.
The Peasant Woman betrays Grusha by revealing to the Corporal that Michael is not hers. This is in contrast to what she had promised Grusha about keeping the identity of the child a secret. This betrayal forces Grusha to go back and take the child, hitting the Corporal in the process and hence endangering her life and that of Michael even more.
Lavrenti, Grusha’s brother also betrays her by arranging to have her married off instead of accommodating her. Grusha expects to be welcomed warmly and given a place to stay until Simon returns but instead she is hidden because her brother’s wife does not want embarrassment. She is even forced to lie to her sister-in-law that she is on her way to meet her husband in order to be allowed to stay with a child. (p.47)
Jussup betrays his country by refusing to join other young men in going to war. He instead lies in bed pretending to be seriously sick. Immediately he learns that the war is over, he wakes up, much to the surprise of everyone in the room.
Natella betrays her husband and child when the war breaks out. She escapes from the palace and leaves Michael behind. She tells one of the servants to put the child down and instead go to look for her little saffron coloured boots to match with her green dress. She does not even show remorse for her husband’s death and does not bother to look for Michael until she is told that she cannot inherit her husband’s estates without him.
Grusha also betrays Simon by agreeing to marry Jussup. Simon and Grusha had made a promise to each other to get married as soon as he returned from escorting Natella to the Capital but when he comes back, he finds Grusha married and with a child. Even though Grusha gets married because of unfortunate circumstances and the child is not hers, Simon is angry and disappointed because he cannot marry her. After realizing the truth about Grusha’s marriage, Simon decides to support Grusha even in court.
In conclusion, betrayal is the source of all the major events that take place in the text. It is the betrayal of the Governor that leads to war in the city which in turn forces Grusha onto her journey. The rich and those in power also betray the poor and those whom they are expected to serve. Characters such as Azdak try to address the injustices of those who feel betrayed.
Does the Governor betray the people? If, yes, how?
Do the Princes betray the country? If, yes, how?
Political and social instability